In his latest column for the Washington Post, Michael Gerson takes issue with a recent article published here at NRO, Andrew Walker’s “Understanding Why Religious Conservatives Would Vote for Trump.” Though Gerson describes Walker’s piece as “the most reasonable” of “recent defenses of evangelical support” for Trump, he nonetheless finds it unconvincing.
“Walker is making the following claim: If you think abortion is a matter of life or death, then you must support whoever opposes it most vigorously, even if he or she is an immoral lout,” Gerson writes.
Set aside for the moment that Gerson’s summary is at best an exaggeration of Walker’s point, if not an outright straw man, better suited to allowing him to make his own case against Trump. He next details several reasons, some of which I sympathize with, as to why the abortion issue alone doesn’t justify voting for absolutely any candidate who agrees with you. In other words, Gerson rebuts the notion that pro-lifers must vote for Trump simply because he is anti-abortion and his opponents are not. Here, I agree with Gerson, though again I question whether he’s responding to Walker’s argument and not the argument he wishes Walker had made.
But while a few of the points in his column are sensible, Gerson makes an utterly baffling logical leap in his conclusion: “It would be difficult for a pro-life citizen to be an enthusiastic and loyal Democrat, even if my case is correct,” he writes. “But it is possible to imagine circumstances in which voting for a Democrat would be preferable to endorsing immediate harm to the country by a Republican. And we are in exactly such a circumstance.”
Despite spending his entire article presenting reasons (some more compelling than others) as to why a pro-lifer might not always need to — and in fact sometimes ought not — vote for an anti-abortion candidate, he concludes the piece as if he had somehow illustrated that pro-life voters are required to support the eventual Democratic nominee. The column’s headline, too, makes this assertion: “It is difficult for pro-lifers to vote Democrat. But it’s better than Trump.”
Even if Gerson had attempted to make this argument, it likely wouldn’t have been terribly convincing. It’s hard to imagine a compelling way to convince voters who choose their candidate based on whether they oppose abortion to support a politician who favors unlimited abortion, for any reason, at any stage of pregnancy, funded by the U.S. taxpayers — the position of every leading Democrat competing for the nomination.
But Gerson didn’t attempt that argument at all. He attempted to refute the claim that pro-lifers must support Trump — a claim Walker didn’t even make — and then pass it off as an argument for voting Democrat in the name of pro-life values.
In his essay, Walker wrote, “The constant criticism of religious conservatives’ voting en masse for Donald Trump never comes with a suggestion of better alternatives.” Rather than refuting this, Gerson seems to have proven Walker’s point.